Wednesday, November 4, 2015

The Life in His Years...

“Did I tell you I retired? I figured it’s about time… I’m only 80!” he said, as I chuckled and thought it was such a beautiful outlook on life, to be 80 years old, feeling jubilant and full of future plans – while I, at the young age of 28, agonize over pulling my first gray hairs, and cringe over wrinkles starting to appear on my face. “Yes, 80 years young and still looking as handsome as ever,” I answer my uncle, someone I’ve always admired. He turned 81 in July, but I doubt he felt any older. Age was just a number to him after all.

We were at my sister’s wedding the last time I saw him, something I’m regretfully realizing as I write this. I should have spent more time with him I keep thinking over in my mind. It’s so hard not to fill my head with the what if’s and the if only’s. But those questions will eat me alive, and he wouldn’t want me to feel that way.

I always thought to myself that when it came time for my Auntie Katie (who has already made her way to Heaven) and Uncle Mack to pass on, that they would be two of the only people that could look back on their lives and be truly okay with dying. Travelling the world, making friends wherever they went, immersing themselves into diverse cultures, learning new languages, drinking fine scotch and wine, and loving each other in a way I have never seen anyone do before, I would really say they must’ve been satisfied with their 80 and 93 years on this earth. Creative, artistic, classy, calm. Not to mention, they were by far the most interesting people I have ever known. Because somehow, after hearing it a hundred times over, their story of meeting each other in Okinawa, Japan never got boring. It’s almost as if I craved to hear the story again at every family gathering. I know I could quote the story word for word, but I always let them repeat it to me – if for nothing else but to see the pure enjoyment on their faces as they recalled their younger years. I hope someday someone looks at me the way he looks her, I always thought as they cheered to drinks and sang duets at family parties. A true love story indeed.

… It was Tuesday, October 27th when I got the call from my Dad. “Holly, hunnie, Uncle Mack died today”, he said as I felt my heart sink to my stomach. “Shut the F up”, I screamed, instantly wishing I had used gentler words. How? When? HOW’S MOM? I fired off the questions rapidly, as he kept his composure and tried to calm me down. Knowing full well she was in no condition to talk, I demanded that my mother come on the phone. Automatically, my first instinct was to help her and console her. Luckily for me, she’s resilient in moments where I’m weak.

It’s now over a week later, and I’ve already been back and forth from his place a few times, moving furniture, cleaning up, sorting through his life, somehow getting harder each time. The freshness of the wound should start to heal soon, I thought, as I watched my mother fold her brother’s clothes, reminisce on old times, marvel over my aunt’s paintings, holding back her tears, showing extra courage I didn’t know she had. I certainly could never be that tough, I think with admiration.

Yes, a week later it is, and although the hurt is still heavy, I remind myself how lucky I am to have known such remarkable people, and to be blood related is simply an honor. It’s already been a week, I say out loud, as I look around my apartment, my walls newly decorated with some of my aunt’s paintings. A whole week that this world has been without him… but a whole week he has been back in her arms. 

Suddenly, I feel myself overcome by a blanket of comfort. She deserves him back now, so how could I be angry with God for taking him away? Quickly I shut my eyes and turn my anger into gratitude as I thank him for giving me another angel.

And just like that, it hit me. You never realize how short life is, and you don’t realize how small your time on this Earth is, and even though he’s in a better place, I still don’t think my uncle was old enough to go… 

I mean after all, he was only 81.